Saturday, January 09, 2010

Beware! Invisible Sorcerers Carry 'Witch Guns'

awoko - The National President of Sierra Leone Indigenous Traditional Healers Union, Dr. Alhaji Suliaman Kabba, has stated that for one to operate witch gun, the person must know about witchcraft. He made the statement at his Calaba Town office in Freetown while explaining the dangers of witch gun and the number of witch gun confessions in late 2009. He said a person who operates witch gun would never be perceived by the ordinary eye adding that such people only carry out their evil acts when they are in an invisible state.

Dr. Kabba also said that formerly witch guns were used by members of secret societies to punish what he called law breakers. He opined that “today people have turned this gun into an instrument to make money. In fact some use as low as three or five thousand Leones to kill their brothers, friends and other family members.”

He further stated that “most witch gun killings are borne out of malicious jealousy, for positions in offices, for political reasons and a host of other related reasons.” The Traditional Healer President continued to categorize the different types of witch guns and their deadly effects. “The earliest and deadliest type of witch gun is made out of the husk from rice, but today's witch guns are made out of gun powder while others are made out of lead. In fact the type of witch gun bullet that is most frequently removed when people are shot is the lead.”

He maintained that it was impossible for a traditional healer to remove more than four witch gun bullets from someone's body. “A lot of healers use means to inject more witch gun bullets into people's body. This is normally done with the intention of making money.” He further revealed that “a victim of witch gun attack initially feels feverish, experiences weakness of the joints and loss of health as early symptoms. He said anyone who had experienced the symptoms and had tried English medicine without success needs to see a native doctor urgently.

Dr. Kabba revealed that he had arrested many people with witch guns with the intention of destroying innocent lives. He said it was with that view that they established the union, adding that they were calling on the government to give them a backing in carrying out their work.


theallisoncross - There aren’t many medical mysteries in Sierra Leone.

If a medical doctor can’t diagnose an ailment or if a patient can’t afford to see a doctor, he or she usually comes to one conclusion about the cause of the pain and suffering: they must have been shot by a witch gun. The illness could be typhoid or schizophrenia, but the symptoms are often attributed to some form of black magic.

A belief in witchcraft and the powers of traditional healers prevails in the culture of Sierra Leone. Sierra Leoneans make casual references in conversation to the truth of witchcraft, whether they are an uneducated person living in a small, rural village or a university-educated researcher living in Freetown.

One reporter, Esther, who worked with my colleague Chris, warned him not to shake the hands of too many people in a large crowd. She said people might try and give him some black magic. One of my reporters in Bo, named Peter, told me wives casts spells on their husbands, often to keep them from straying from the marriage. Another woman told me it’s possible to have someone killed through witchcraft.

Strange behaviour or crippling illnesses, everyone tells me, usually means someone has been shot by a witch gun, which can’t be seen by the naked eye. Mental illness is most often attributed to witchcraft, because its symptoms are so difficult to understand. A traditional healer claims to be able cure people of their ailments and charges a hefty fee for his services. Patients pay with money, chickens or palm oil and are usually given herbs as treatment.

But treating an infectious disease as a curse or spell has fatal consequences for many. A reporter working with my colleague, Sulakshana, died in June from typhoid after she saw a traditional healer instead of a medical doctor. She left behind two young children.

Of course, Sierra Leoneans looking for conventional medical treatment are largely out of luck. Eighty or so government doctors treat a country with a population of six million people. Unlicensed doctors abound, but their prices are higher and their qualifications not exactly verifiable. Traditional healers are easier to access. Villagers are often afraid to visit hospitals if they’ve never been before, concerned they won’t be coming back. There’s also the issue of paying for gas or a vehicle to get to the hospital.

But an established belief in witchcraft has only led to devastating discrimination in countries like Nigeria. A belief in the practice has led many Nigerian communities to abandon small children, claiming they are witches sent by the devil. The children, sometimes as young as two or three, are accused of bringing misfortune upon a village, after crops die or food goes bad. They’re beaten, tied to trees and left to die. Preachers make money off these circumstances, offering to remove the curse from the children for large sums of money collected from the desperate parents. Charities in Nigeria that take in children abandoned are overwhelmed with the demand for their services.

I don’t disagree with people when they tell me about witchcraft. Instead I ask questions so that I can understand it better. But I asked one woman if someone could put black magic on me. She laughed for three or four minutes. “No,” she said. “You’re white. They can’t get you.”
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